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Peugeot’s Malaysian 408 a maybe for Oz

Give it the boot: Peugeot's 408 sedan, which primarily serves developing markets in Asia, the Americas and Eastern Europe, is a chance to go on-sale in Australia.

408 sedan to slot between 308 and 508 if Peugeot’s Malaysian deal goes ahead

19 Jul 2011

PEUGEOT is assessing the viability of producing the 408 sedan in right-hand drive form for export from Malaysia to other RHD countries including Australia.

The 308-based 408 is a left-hand drive-only model for the time being, but could be produced in RHD guise if there is enough demand from nations like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan.

Manufactured since early 2010 at the Dongfeng Motor plant at Wuhan in Hubei province in China as well as in Argentina, the 408 has been designed to serve Asian, Latin American and Eastern European markets that prefer sedans to hatchbacks.

Essentially a booted 308 but with a body and wheelbase that is 404mm and 100mm longer respectively, the 408 is offered in 1.6 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine guises, as well as with a 1.6-litre HDi turbo-diesel for South American customers.

According to Peugeot Automobiles Australia general manager Ken Thomas, a decision will be made by the end of this year, with Malaysian Peugeot distributor Nasim set to build the 408 in that country in the near future.

The company already assembles variants of the 308 at its plant in Gurun.

23 center imageIf the 408 gets the RHD green light, it could be available in Australia by late 2012, when it would serve as a replacement for the outgoing 407 sedan in the company’s local line-up.

The deal would see Nasim receive partially assembled 408s from PSA Peugeot Citroen’s partner in China, before RHD assembly was completed in Malaysia for export across the ASEAN region.

In January 2010 the French car-maker proclaimed Malaysia as the centre of its Asia-Pacific hub (excluding China).

“The genesis of the 408 was essentially out of the Asian markets because the Asian markets essentially like their motor cars with a boot, and so the 408 was created out of that idea,” Mr Thomas told GoAuto at the launch of the 508 in Melbourne last week.

“The wheelbase is a little longer than the 308’s, with more room in the back seat and a bigger boot as well as a specification level that is quite high, so it’s not an entry-level car, and there is slightly different design with its own nose cone and so forth.

“But the process we are following at the moment is that we will have to negotiate Australian Design Rules in terms of its compliance for Australia, and we’re in the middle of that at the moment.

“Towards the end of the year we will be in clearer air in terms of saying if the 408 is going to happen for Australia.

“Primarily, 408 is built for a LHD market… so for us to justify RHD production for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan, it obviously requires a great deal of analysis and testing.

“But I think it will probably happen because there is a lot of interest for the 408 in Malaysia. The company there is saying there is a real void in the market for a medium-sized three-box car. They’ve done a lot of testing, and they think they can do quite significant volumes in Malaysia, and they’re a RHD market.

“If they want to do it that much and at (sufficient) volume then that gets RHD 408 across the line.

“The cars would be SKD (semi knocked down) with most of the componentry built in China with Dongfeng – chassis, engines, exhaust systems – and they will be shipped to another factory to be built up.

“Malaysia has a very mature business in SKD due to import imposts so they are very attuned to building cars SKD to serve that market.

“My betting is that if it is going to get up it will be built in Malaysia SKD and we will import the 408 as a fully imported car into Australia.”

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